Archive for the 'Attuned Eating' Category


Diets Fail Us

We’ve all been there.

Maybe we see a photo of ourselves and groan.  Maybe we have trouble zipping our jeans.  Maybe there’s a special occasion approaching, and we start to anticipate seeing people there.  Regardless of the trigger, a diet tends to start with harsh words.

To paraphrase Dr. Judith Matz, an expert in attuned eating, “No one ever looked in the mirror and said, ‘Gee, I look great.  I think I’ll go on a diet.’”  Usually it’s along the lines of “Look at these thighs!  Disgusting!  I’ve GOT to do something about my weight. I can’t stand it anymore.  Yuck!”

So begins the lists of what’s “good” to eat and what’s “bad.”  The ambitious workout schedule.  Determination, gritted teeth.  Maybe a picture of a bathing suit in a goal size on the bathroom mirror.  And for a while, the scale is a friend, confidence surges, and it’s easy to decline offers of tempting treats.  Walking past the gluttonous buffet in the office kitchen produces a smug smile.

But after a while – maybe it’s a few weeks, maybe even a few months – there’s a temptation that feels like a magnetic pull, irresistible and o’ so delicious.  “Just this once.”

But it’s like a dam has broken, and suddenly just once becomes another time.  And another.

“I’ve already blown it, I might as well enjoy this treat,” becomes a new motto.

The pounds fly back on, sometimes even more weight than the diet shed.  Demoralizing, shaming, and blaming self-talk follows.  “What’s wrong with me?  Why can’t I ever stick to anything that’s healthy?  I’m a failure.  Again.”

If you see yourself in this scenario, you’re like 95% of people who have dieted.  95%!  Let’s go back to Judith Matz, who says,

Dieting is a $60 billion industry.  Consumers are blamed for the failure of diets, but the truth is that diets fail people.

In fact, dieting can be pinpointed as one of the culprits that actually cause weight gain.

Our bodies are biologically programmed to hold on to fat.  Think back to the hunter-gatherer era when famines were very real possibilities.  When we diet in the current day, our bodies can’t know that we’re striving to slim down.  When we cut our calories, we’re hard wired to metabolically shift to survival mode as if we were in famine.  And when we inevitably return to eating at a higher caloric level, our bodies pack it on as fat, rather than the muscle that was originally lost.  And fat doesn’t process calories as efficient as muscle does so up goes the weight.

Weight cycling, going down and then going up again, raises the set point at which our bodies settle.  And no one knows how to make the set point go back down.  With dieting, it just keeps climbing.

So what’s the solution? Intuitive eating (also called attuned eating or mindful eating) connects us back to the wisdom of our bodies.  The starting place is to learn what hunger feels like in your body.  The glaring signs, like a growling stomach or becoming crabby or feeling light headed, can be a sign that your hunger has gone too far and your decision-making skills are impaired.  What are the subtle signs of physical hunger for you?  An inkling in your stomach? A shadow across your mental focus? A dip in your energy level?

Once you identify your physical hunger cues, you use them as a decision maker for when you eat.  Yes, there are many external cues that will interfere such as shared meals, work and school schedules, routines and expectations.  And when you honor your hunger by waiting to eat in response to it, you put yourself on the road to a fundamental shift, one that uses internal signals to guide you.

Your body has innate wisdom.  We can’t remember our own early years, when as babies we cried to signal hunger and then caring adults fed us on demand, but that internal mechanism worked for all of us at one time.  Honor yourself by returning to this form of eating so that you can return to your natural body weight.

Allow yourself to embark on this journey with compassion rather than perfection.  This is not another diet.  It’s not another set of external rules.  It’s a way of returning to yourself and rebuilding trust in yourself.

There are several other components of the attuned eating model, which we’ll examine in future posts.  But this beginning step, eating in response to your own physical hunger, is the one that will begin the journey of breaking free of the diet-binge cycle.  This step signals the end of weight cycling.  And it trips you into a focus on your health rather on a number on the scale.  It begins the process of letting of self-blame for years of failing at diets because now your attention will be squarely on the behaviors that serve your health rather than inadvertently sabotage it.

There is hope.  You can live a different life, one that aligns with your body rather than fights it.


A yummy blend of story, politics, and personal philosophy.

This blog is not currently active, but it's got some extraordinary content so I keep it going with a very occasional post. It's a series of stories from people who have successfully let go of 40 or more pounds using lots of different approaches. The stories are all here along with my editorials about the threads that run between them (click on the Stories and Tapestry tabs). Enjoy!

Margaret Graham, NCC, CPCC

Photo of Maggie Graham

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